Information Age — the present time, in which large amounts of information are available because of developments in computer technology.
Maybe you’ve heard this called the Digital Age, the Computer Age, or the New Media Age. No matter what you call it, the fact remains — information is available at our fingertips in greater volumes than ever before. And we get information faster than we can possibly process it.
While the Information Age yields some obvious advantages, it introduces challenges as well. One of the most notorious problems employees face today is information overload. The overwhelming and mental strain of information overload led to costly consequences — employees get distracted, make errors due to multitasking, accomplish less, and are less able to engage in creative problem-solving.
Before we can work on solving information overload, we need to understand how and why it happens. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees’ time and energy are wasted when information is burdensome. How can you spot burdensome information? Watch for signs if your communication is:
- Inconsistent – Contains conflicting information
- Irrelevant – Unrelated to employees’ responsibilities or concerns
- Duplicative – Multiple communications about similar topics at the same time
- Effort intensive – Requires extra work to process information or take action
When employees’ time and attention spans are in short supply, organizations would be wise to consider the role that information overload plays. To combat and prevent information overload, organizations should cut through the clutter of internal communication. You can do this by strategizing your internal communication in terms of:
- WHAT – The message
- WHY – The purpose
- WHO – The audience
- HOW – The channels
- WHEN – The timing and frequency
After sending out internal communications, make sure you follow up and provide support, so employees have everything they need (and nothing more) to take appropriate action.
Keep reading to learn how to develop the big picture for your communication strategy (the what and why), think through the logistical considerations to effectively get your message across (the who, how, and when), and provide valuable follow-through and support for employees.
Zoom Out to Develop the Big Picture
So, you’re getting ready to launch an internal communication campaign. First things first — figure out what you’re going to say and why it’s important. If internal communication is a jigsaw puzzle, you’ve got to start with the big picture so you know the vision you’re working toward.
When planning your message, keep it simple. This means using language that is simple, streamlined, and succinct. Increase employee buy-in with credible, inspiring messaging that tells a coherent story. Most important, keep your messaging consistent to avoid the pitfall of burdensome information we talked about earlier.
Next, you’ll need to get clear on the purpose of your communication and the incentive for employees to pay attention. Ask yourself questions like, “Why is this communication necessary? What does this communication aim to change? Why is it important?” Having direct answers to these questions will help you avoid sending out irrelevant information that employees might skip over.
Once you know exactly what you want to say and why you need to say it, you’ve paved the way for a compelling and valuable internal communication campaign. As you keep working, don’t forget to look for opportunities to infuse creativity!
Zoom in to Focus on Logistics
By this point, you’ve got a solid handle on your message and its purpose. Now, it’s time to zoom in and work out the mechanics of your communication strategy. The who, when, and how are the pieces that fill in your internal communication puzzle. Even if you’ve got a great message with a clear purpose, these logistical elements could make or break your communication’s success.
Different employee groups and populations have different needs and priorities, so it’s important to define your target audience. Does your message apply only to executives, employees who are enrolled in a medical plan, or another unique group? Are you communicating about a new policy that may affect part-time employees differently than full-time employees? Think about how your message will be received by a particular audience and tailor it accordingly.
With technological innovation comes a plethora of choices for how to send a particular message — email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, text messaging, and the list goes on. Choose the best communication channels for your message based on contextual information, like the length and priority of the communication.
Slack can be noisy, so it’s best to use Slack for posts that are eye-catching and brief, like a short announcement or to remind employees about an event. If you’re communicating a high-priority topic with detailed information and multiple links, you might want to choose email so employees can easily revisit the information via their inbox search tool.
Strategize the timing and frequency of your communication to avoid sending duplicative information and flooding employees’ inboxes. Start by providing enough time for employees to process information before they need to act. If you need employees to take a particular action — like complete their benefits enrollment, for example — look at the calendar and find a date that gives employees ample time to review their benefits enrollment guide and talk with any covered dependents about the benefits they’ll need to choose during their enrollment period.
These logistical elements — target audience, communication channels, and timing — take time and thoughtful consideration, but getting them right is crucial for the efficacy of your internal communications.
Follow Through and Provide Support
Congratulations — you’ve launched an effective internal communication campaign! But we’re not done yet. First-rate communication doesn’t stop here. Here are some ways to follow through and provide support to make sure employees have what they need to move forward and take appropriate action.
First, establish and maintain a central repository of information where employees can quickly and easily find resources and tools. Remember when we talked about how burdensome information is often effort intensive? Ensuring your employees know where they can quickly and easily find information — like your organization’s intranet — helps counter effort-intensive communication. Try to predict any roadblocks your employees might encounter when searching for tools and resources and think through creative solutions.
Last, think about how you can strategically repeat and repurpose your communications. You can do this by reposting a message across multiple platforms or finding opportunities to encourage your audience to engage. Again, creativity is key! Find engaging ways to reach your employees that use minimum effort for maximum impact.
Living and working in the Information Age means our time is more valuable than ever, yet we often get overwhelmed wading through the constant waves of information competing for our attention. Cutting through the clutter of internal communication will counteract information overload and help your employees stay focused, perform their best work and engage in creative problem-solving. As you craft your internal communications, keep our guidelines top of mind.